Midvalley home sales finally take a tumble, real estate agents say | AspenTimes.com

Midvalley home sales finally take a tumble, real estate agents say

The midvalley’s incredible run of strong years in single-family-home sales finally faded in 2002.

Midvalley real estate agents said that while last year wasn’t horrible, it certainly didn’t match the “buying frenzy” that characterized the market for years. Even when the upper-valley real estate market fell flat in 2001, the downvalley home market continued to go strong, buoyed by local buyers.

But the downturn in the national economy finally affected the midvalley market, said Wendy Lucas, a real estate agent with the Basalt-based Roaring Fork Land Co.

“I can’t imagine there’s a Realtor that wouldn’t say it’s down,” Lucas said.

The number of home sales in Basalt was flat in 2002, and the dollar volume fell 5 percent from the year before.

There were 76 sales of single-family homes in both years in what the Aspen Board of Realtors considers the Basalt zone. That includes Blue Lake, Dakota, Emma, Wingo Junction, Sopris Village and El Jebel, in addition to Basalt proper.

The dollar volume fell from $41.65 million in 2001 to $39.39 million last year for the Basalt zone.

The declines were even sharper in Carbondale. The number of single-family-home sales fell 25 percent from 118 in 2001 to 88 last year, according to the Aspen Board of Realtors’ data.

The dollar volume plummeted from $56.46 million to $45.73 million, down $10.73 million or 20 percent. The Carbondale zone includes sales in Aspen Glen and River Valley Ranch, two luxury residential golf projects.

“We’re not in a bad market but we’re seeing prices dropping,” said Terry Harrington, co-owner of Harrington Real Estate.

She said the “softening” of prices started about 18 months ago, but it wasn’t until early last summer that it was clear that the midvalley market was sagging.

She said her firm is doing more business with people moving into the valley and less lately with people selling their existing property and moving up.

“They’re staying put, refinancing what they’ve got,” she said.

Homes listed for less than $500,000 are still selling well, and the upper end of the market is also strong, Harrington said. It’s the middle of the market ? around $500,000 to $900,000 ? that is slow, she said.

@ATD Sub heds:Mixed message on prices

@ATD body copy: Both Lucas and Harrington said buyers are well aware of changes in the market.

“It’s more of a buyers’ market these days,” Harrington said.

Lucas said some buyers are almost “cocky” now because they know there are choices out there. Buyers used to look at a handful of homes and make an offer for full price for the one they could afford or the one they liked, she said.

Now, sellers are more likely to negotiate. “I’ve gotten bigger price reductions than I’ve ever had in the past,” Lucas said.

Aspen Board of Realtors’ data shows the average and median home prices went in different directions in Basalt and Carbondale last year.

In Basalt, the average price of a single-family home fell 5 percent to $518,337 last year. The median price tumbled 10 percent, from $494,231 to $447,500.

But in Carbondale, average and median prices increased despite slower sales. The average home price jumped 8.5 percent to $519,659 while the median nudged up 2.5 percent to $385,500.

Real estate agents said the median sales price, which has an equal number above and below, represents the market the best. The average price can be skewed by a couple of big sales.

@ATD Sub heds:What’s on the market

@ATD body copy: Although sales prices may be coming down, buyers are still hoping for big scores. The Aspen Board of Realtors’ Web site lists all the properties currently for sale.

There are 72 single-family homes on the market in the Basalt zone. Ten of them are priced under $400,000, with the lowest being a 1,446-square-foot home in Blue Lake for $309,000.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are 18 properties listed over $1 million and eight over $2 million.

The bulk of Basalt-area homes, 44 of the 72, are prices between $400,000 and $1 million.

In Carbondale there are more than 112 homes on the market and more priced in what passes for the lower end. There are 31 homes offered between $245,000 and $400,000. On the expensive end, there are 29 homes listed over $1 million, including six over $2 million.

Harrington said she believes that uncertainty over the prospects for war in Iraq are making buyers cautious. She believes the market is poised to soar once those issues are resolved.

Lucas said she believes the national economy is cyclical and will take awhile longer to recover. It simply takes time to work through the slumps, she said.

“I think it’s going to be another year before we see another turnaround,” Lucas said.

[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com]

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